.. But says public school administrators hiking fees will be punished
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has disclosed that it has no control over how private schools determine tuition and other fees but warned all government institutions against hiking fees.
The ministry through it Deputy Minister for Administration Latim Da-Thong disclosed that the country education law does not allow MOE to interfere with private schools’ determination of fees.
“The laws of Liberia do not give us the power to determine private school fees. Private school is a business. If a parent takes their child to a private school and it is too expensive, let them move the child to a different school. It is an option. Nobody forces you to take your child to a private school,” Da-Thong told the Daily Observer.
He said the government is not providing subsidies to private schools now and, as such, it is not advisable to warn them against increasing their fees and tuition.
“We are about to build some new high schools and elevate twenty-five others from Junior High level to Senior High level. It is the government’s responsibility to provide quality education for our citizens and we are working very hard,” he said.
His response came in the wake of many parents finding it difficult to send their children to school this year (2021-2022) due to the high increment in fees and, coincidentally, an alleged increment in fees at some public schools too in the country.
It can be recalled that Dao Ansu Sonii, Minister of Education, recently cautioned all private schools against increasing fees and tuitions, especially those that have not added any value such as a computer or a science laboratory or even a library.
Deputy Minister Da-Thong says the reason Private School owners are increasing fees is because the ratio of young people nowadays enrolling in schools has significantly increased. He however raised concern about private schools raising fees without any significant value to justify said raises.
According to Da-Thong, the MOE is not issuing permits to any private school to operate unless the school provides its documentation containing fees and tuition for the past two academic years.
“When we don’t see in this year’s information a significant decrease or increase in fees on the basis of tangible improvements, we will not offer them permits to operate. That will prevent them from operating in the Republic of Liberia,” he added.
In realization of some unnamed public school administrators allegedly increasing fees, the Ministry of Education has issued a caveat warning all public schools against increasing registration fees.
“As the Ministry endeavors to provide accessible, affordable and quality education for all Liberians void of discrimination with the intention of not depriving or denying any Liberian child of accessing relevant education, the Ministry has discovered and noticed regrettably that some Public School administrators are willfully and intentionally undermining the good intention of the Ministry by increasing the annual registration fees for Public Schools without remorse,’ a release from MOE said.
Liberia’s education Ministry said it will not relent to drastically deal with public school administrators who act contrary to what it (Ministry of Education) has put in place.
“Henceforth, any Public School operating in the Republic of Liberia that will add additional amount to the approved registration fees will do so at their own detriment, and will be severely penalized,” Acting Minister Da-Thong said.
MOE says all elementary students attending public schools should pay L$1000 while those in junior high division (7th-9th grade) are to pay L$2000, adding that senior students (10th-12th grade) should pay L$300 and nothing more for each of them.
“In furtherance of this, all District Education Officers (DEOs) and County Education Officers (CEOs) are hereby mandated to increase their monitoring and supervision of all Public Schools to put an immediate halt to the unnecessary increment in the registration fees. Any DEO or CEO reneging on their monitoring and supervision will be dealt with administratively,” the release from MOE continued.
Latim Da-Thong said “any Public School administrator violating the stipulated fees sanctioned by the Ministry, risks immediate dismissal.”
He called on all public school administrators to work in compliance with the instruction from the Ministry of Education.
Lapses in Monitoring
Da-Thong said parents are a very important monitoring layer the Ministry of Education is using to get facts about things happening on campuses of public schools, and in some cases, the private schools too.
“MOE relies on PTA. District Education Officers or County Education Officers may write reports that are not reflecting the truth on the ground, but the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) has the right to inform us about the actualities. Like today (November 10, 2021), several parents called us using the hotlines and gave us names of public schools increasing fees,” he explained.
Da-Thong said the public and parents in particular should help the Ministry get rid of the corrupt practices allegedly carried out at schools.
He said from the calls received on November 10, it was made known from Maryland and a few other counties that public schools are charging L$10,000 or even more in some areas.
“We are taking action immediately. We will fire principals, County Education Officers, and District Education Officers, whose hands are in the increment of fees across the country.
Benjamin Wehyee is an educator and has been in the education sector for many years now. He is the chief executive officer of LICOSESS Mobile Teacher Training College.
Weighing in on the matter concerning the hike in fees at both public and private schools, Wehyee said “it is a system breakdown and a national challenge that needs urgent attention.”
“I personally condemn the arbitrary increment of fees by the private sector institutions. Public sector institutions should be strictly run by government, according to the education law. The system, in terms of supervision, is behind,” he noted.
He said it is a conspiracy by District Education Officers and their bosses, County Education Officers, if any public school principal increases fees.
“Sad to note too, over the past three years, private school teachers have and continue even now, to increase school fees arbitrarily. Their action is not backed by any quality improvement in the sector,” Wehyee said sternly.
He admonished that there should always be quality based increment rather than doing so for the sake of profiteering.
“The Science or computer laboratories or some other improved and advanced educational facilities should inform the decision of increment rather than just doing so because someone wants to make profit,” he concluded.